It is getting harder to find a flagship phone that can be used comfortably with a single hand. Apple appears to be giving up on making small screen models for its upcoming iPhone 14 series while Sony hasn’t announced the successor to the Xperia 5 III. However, Asus still wants to address this niche market with their latest ZenFone 9.
Similar to last year’s ZenFone 8, the new ZenFone 9 still features a 5.9″ Full HD+ AMOLED display that supports a 120Hz refresh rate. For 2022, the new Asus ZenFone 9 features a flat-edge frame design which is a current trend for most smartphones launched recently. The screen boasts 1100 nits of maximum brightness with a colour accuracy of Delta-E <1 and it is also HDR10+ certified. There’s also Corning Gorilla Glass Victus to protect the front panel.
Under the hood, the ZenFone 9 runs on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor that can be paired with either 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and a choice of either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Asus also claims to offer improvements in thermal performance over the last model by using a vapour chamber instead of heat pipes.
Asus is positioning the ZenFone 9 as the perfect one-handed smartphone. Besides trimming excess dimensions off the height and width, they have added extra features including a side-mounted fingerprint sensor which can be used as a mini “touchpad”. It lets you swipe up and down to open notification, scroll to the top or bottom of pages and it can be used for media control. The back of the device has a double-tap feature which can be used to take a screenshot and to open the camera, flashlight or sound recorder.
Over at the rear, the ZenFone 9 gets two cameras which include a 50MP f/1.9 main shooter that uses Sony’s IMX766 sensor and it is further assisted by a 6-axis Hybrid Gimbal stabiliser. The secondary camera is a 12MP ultra-wide-angle shooter using a Sony IMX363 sensor and it can be used for macro shots as close as 4cm. For selfies, the top-left corner of the screen houses a 12MP f/2.45 front camera which uses Sony’s IMX663 sensor.
The device can record 8K UHD videos at 24fps with EIS enabled as well as Full HD videos at 30 or 60fps with HyperSteady mode. It also can shoot slow-mo videos at 120fps in 4K and 480fps in 720p.
As you would expect from a flagship device, the Asus ZenFone 9 also features dual stereo speakers and interestingly, it still retains a 3.5mm headphone jack. On top of that, it still gets IP68 rated dust and water resistance.
Besides having a more power efficient processor, the ZenFone 9 also gets a slightly larger battery with a 4,300mAh capacity (ZenFone 8: 4,000mAh). According to Asus, this should provide close to two days of battery life on normal usage or up to 18.5 hours of video playback. It supports 30W fast wired charging via USB-C with its 30W HyperCharge power adapter, however, there’s no wireless support available.
Connectivity wise, it supports 5G, WiFi 6 (WiFi 6E subject to regulatory limitations), NFC and Bluetooth 5.2. Out of the box, it runs on Android 12 and Asus promises to offer 2 years of Android updates and 3 years of security patches. During the launch, they also unveiled a couple of accessories including a Smart Backpack holder which allows you to mount the ZenFone 9 to a strap as well as the Connex Accessories Set which allows you to attach a kickstand or a card holder to the case.
The Asus ZenFone 9 is priced from EUR 799 (about RM3,643) for the base 8GB RAM + 128GB storage model. Typically, smartphones sold in Malaysia are priced a lot more lower than Europe, however, it appears that there are no plans to offer the ZenFone 9 in Malaysia. Perhaps some grey importers may offer the ZenFone 9 locally but you won’t get the official warranty and support. If you don’t mind getting the older model, the Asus ZenFone 8 with 128GB storage is currently going for RM1,799.